Bellingham, Washington

Bellingham, Washington
—  City  —

Nickname(s): City of Subdued Excitement
Bellingham's location (red, southwest corner at lower left) in Whatcom County (brown, northwest corner at upper left), in the state of Washington
Coordinates: 48°45′1″N 122°28′30″W / 48.75028°N 122.475°W / 48.75028; -122.475
Country United States
State Washington
County Whatcom
Incorporated July 29, 1904
 – Type Mayor–council
 – Mayor Dan Pike
 – City 31.7 sq mi (82.2 km2)
 – Land 25.6 sq mi (66.4 km2)
 – Water 6.1 sq mi (15.8 km2)
Elevation 69 ft (22 m)
Population (2010)
 – City 80,885
 – Density 2,619.8/sq mi (1,011.5/km2)
 – Metro 200,434
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 – Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 98225-98229
Area code(s) 360
FIPS code 53-05280[2]
GNIS feature ID 1512001[3]
Demonym Bellinghamster, Brennens

Bellingham (play /ˈbɛlɪŋhæm/ US dict: bĕl′·ĭng·hăm) is the largest city in, and the county seat of, Whatcom County in the U.S. state of Washington.[4] It is the twelfth-largest city in the state. Situated on Bellingham Bay, Bellingham is protected by Lummi Island, Portage Island, and the Lummi Peninsula, and opens onto the Strait of Georgia. It lies west of Mount Baker and Lake Whatcom (from which it gets its drinking water) and north of the Chuckanut Mountains and Skagit Valley. Whatcom Creek runs through the center of the city.

Bellingham's population was 80,885 at the 2010 Census.[5] The boundaries of the city encompass the former towns of Fairhaven (now home to the southern ferry terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System), Whatcom, Sehome, and Bellingham. Nearly half of all residents of Whatcom County live within Bellingham.



1890 bank building in the Fairhaven District.

The name of Bellingham is derived from the bay on which the city is situated. George Vancouver, who visited the area in June 1792, named the bay for Sir William Bellingham, the controller of the storekeeper's account of the Royal Navy.[6]

The first Caucasian settlers reached the area in 1854. In 1858, the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush caused thousands of miners, storekeepers, and scalawags to head north from California. Whatcom (Bellingham's original name) grew overnight from a small northwest mill town to a bustling seaport, the basetown for the Whatcom Trail, which led to the Fraser Canyon goldfields, used in open defiance of colonial Governor James Douglas's edict that all entry to the gold colony be made via Victoria, British Columbia.

Coal was mined in the Bellingham area from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries. It was Henry Roeder who had discovered coal off the northeastern shore of Bellingham Bay, and in 1854 a group of San Francisco investors established the Bellingham Bay Coal Company. The mine extended to hundreds of miles of tunnels as deep as 1200 feet. It ran southwest to Bellingham Bay, on both sides of Squalicum Creek, an area of about one square mile. At its peak in the 1920s, the mine employed some 250 miners digging over 200,000 tons of coal annually. It was closed in 1955.[7][8][9]

Bellingham was officially incorporated on November 4, 1903 as a result of the incremental consolidation of four towns initially situated around Bellingham Bay during the final decades of the 19th Century. Whatcom is today's "Old Town" area and was founded in 1852.[10] Sehome was an area downtown founded in 1854. Bellingham was further south near Boulevard Park, founded in 1853; while Fairhaven was a large commercial district with its own harbor, also founded in 1853.

In 1890, Fairhaven developers bought Bellingham. Whatcom and Sehome had adjacent borders and both towns wanted to merge; thus they formed New Whatcom. Later on October 27, 1903, the word "New" was dropped from the name, because the Washington State legislature outlawed the word "NEW" from city names, making it into simply "Whatcom". At first, attempts to combine Fairhaven and Whatcom failed, and there was controversy over the name of the proposed new city. Whatcom citizens wouldn't support a city named "Fairhaven", and Fairhaven residents wouldn't support a city named "Whatcom". They eventually decided to use the name "Bellingham", which remains today. Voting a second time for a final merger of the four towns into a single city, the resolution passed by 2163 votes "for" and 596 "against".[11]

In the early 1890s, three railroad lines arrived, connecting the bay cities to a nationwide market of builders. The foothills around Bellingham were clearcut after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to help provide the lumber for the rebuilding of San Francisco. In time, lumber and shingle mills sprang up all over the county to accommodate the byproduct of their work.

In 1889, Pierre Cornwall and an association of investors formed the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company (BBIC). The BBIC invested in several diverse enterprises such as shipping, coal, mining, railroad construction, real estate sales and utilities. Even though their dreams of turning Bellingham into a Pacific Northwest metropolis never came to fruition, the BBIC made an immense contribution to the economic development of Bellingham.[12]

BBIC was not the only outside firm with an interest in Bellingham utilities. The General Electric Company of New York purchased Bellingham's Fairhaven Line and New Whatcom street rail line in 1897. In 1898 the utility merged into the Northern Railway and Improvement Company which prompted the Electric Corporation of Boston to purchase a large block of shares.[13]

Bellingham's proximity to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to the Inside Passage to Alaska helped keep some cannery operations here. P.A.F., for example, shipped empty cans to Alaska, where they were packed with fish and shipped back for storage.

Bellingham circa 1909
Bellingham, 2010


The mean annual salary of a wage earner in Bellingham is $37,990,[14] which is below the Washington State average of $44,710.[15]

Adjusted for inflation, wages in Bellingham and Whatcom County have been declining for more than 30 years as service-oriented jobs gain prominence in the local economy, and goods production (mining, construction and manufacturing) decline as a share of total employment. Service oriented jobs now constitute at least 77% of all non-agricultural employment in Whatcom County.[16]

Between 1989 and 1999 median household income grew 41% in Whatcom County while housing costs grew 108% over the same period. In each year 1998–2000 the average wage in Whatcom County was not enough to afford a two-bedroom rental unit.[17]

For the year 2005, the median price of all homes sold in Whatcom County was $259,000 while the median price of homes sold in the Bellingham area was $269,000. This compares with a statewide median home price of $260,900.[18]

Largest Employers

According to the City's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[19] the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center 2,714
2 Western Washington University 1,664
3 Bellingham School District 1,265
4 County of Whatcom 920
5 City of Bellingham 910
6 Haggen 866
7 Sodexo 760
8 Sterling Health Plans 653
9 Fred Meyer 542
10 The Markets 196


The city is located at 48°45′N 122°29′W / 48.75°N 122.483°W / 48.75; -122.483 (48.75, −122.48).[20] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 31.7 square miles (82 km2), of which 25.6 square miles (66 km2) is land and 6.1 square miles (16 km2) (19.2%) is water. The lowest elevations are at sea level along the waterfront. Alabama Hill is one of the higher points in the city at about 500 feet (150 m). Elevations of 800 feet (240 m) are found near Yew Street Hill north of Lake Padden and near Galbraith Mountain. Beyond the city limits of Bellingham many taller foothills and small mountains rise in Whatcom County, until climbing to a peak elevation of 10,778 feet (3,285 m) at the summit of Mount Baker which is just over 31 miles (50 km) from the seashore. Mount Baker is the largest volcano in the local area, and its glaciers are visible from many parts of the city. Lake Whatcom forms part of the eastern boundary of the city, while many smaller lakes and wetland areas are found around the region. Bellingham is also about 50 miles (80 km) south of Vancouver.

Surrounding communities


Old Main, Western Washington University in winter.

Bellingham's climate is generally mild, often referred to as "The Banana Belt of the Northwest"[citation needed]. The average yearly high and low temperatures are 59 °F (15 °C) and 44.1 °F (6.7 °C), respectively. Although the rainy season can last as long as eight months or more, it is usually about six months long, leaving Bellingham with a picturesque late spring and mild, pleasant summer. Although Bellingham receives an average annual rainfall of 34.84 inches (885 mm), many long weeks of short and cloudy days are commonplace in winter.

Western Whatcom County has a damp marine oceanic climate and averages 3.9 inches (99 mm) of rain per month from October through April.[21]

Summers are quite dry however. Bellingham sees an average of 5.7 rainy days in July and August combined. For comparison, Phoenix, Arizona averages 10 rainy days during the same period. Drought is rare, although some summers are considerably drier than others and some normally reliable wells have been known to run dry in August and September. Nevertheless, crops are more frequently ruined by too much rain than too little.

Bellingham's location and geography occasionally subject it to an unusual and harsh weather pattern wherein an upper level trough drives down cold Arctic air from the Canadian interior, usually through the Fraser River Canyon. This cold air mass can collide with a Gulf of Alaska cold front and create high winds, ice, snow, or heavy rains. A "Silver Thaw" can result and wind chill equivalents can slide well under 0 °F (−18 °C). Such an event was recorded on November 28, 2006. Outside air temperatures of 12 °F (−11 °C) were accompanied by 30 to 48 miles per hour (48 to 77 km/h) winds. Wind chill equivalents reached −10 °F (−23 °C) according to NOAA.[22] On February 1, 1989, the high temperature for the day was 8 °F (−13 °C) and the average northeast wind approached tropical storm force at 39 mph (63 km/h) average with gusts to 64 mph (103 km/h).[23] Old-timers also like to talk about January 1950 when the minimum temperature was in the single digits for almost the entire month,[24] but the weather records are incomplete that far back.

Another weather phenomenon, known as the "Chinook wind", happens in the autumn. For most of a day, an unusually warm and steady wind comes out of the south. It is essentially a reverse northeaster. (Some film of a northeaster and a "Chinook" can be seen at this link:.[25]) Chinook winds are at their most dramatic in December or January when they follow several days of north east wind. A Chinook wind following a northeast wind can melt significant snow accumulations very quickly, pushing drainage systems to their limits.

Bellingham has the lowest average sunshine amount of any city in the US.[26]

The hottest official temperature is 96 °F (36 °C), set on July 29, 2009, beating the old record of 94 °F (34 °C) by 2 °F (1 °C).

Climate data for Bellingham, Washington
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 46
Average low °F (°C) 35
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.91
Source: The Weather Channel[27]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1890 8,135
1900 11,062 36.0%
1910 24,298 119.7%
1920 25,585 5.3%
1930 30,823 20.5%
1940 29,314 −4.9%
1950 34,112 16.4%
1960 34,688 1.7%
1970 39,375 13.5%
1980 45,794 16.3%
1990 52,179 13.9%
2000 67,171 28.7%
2010 80,885 20.4%

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 67,171 people, 27,999 households, and 13,999 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,619.3 people per square mile (1,011.5/km2). There were 29,474 housing units at an average density of 1,149.3 per square mile (443.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.88% White, 0.98% Black or African American, 1.48% Native American, 4.25% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 2.16% from other races, and 3.08% from two or more races. 4.63% of the population is Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 27,999 households out of which 23.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.5% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.0% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.83.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.7% under the age of 18, 23.8% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 92.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,530, and the median income for a family was $47,196. Males had a median income of $35,288 versus $25,971 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,483. About 9.4% of families and 20.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.2% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those aged 65 or over.

See the urban populations at the right.


Bellingham is home to several educational institutions, including Whatcom Community College;[28] Bellingham Technical College;[29] Northwest Indian College;[30] a satellite campus of Trinity Western University; Charter College; and (with more than 15,000 students) Western Washington University, which includes, among others Fairhaven College;[31] Huxley College;[32] and the Woodring College of Education.[33]

There are three public high schools in the city: Bellingham High School, Sehome High School and Squalicum High School.[34] The city also normally has four middle schools, though the students of Whatcom Middle School have been dispersed to Fairhaven, Kulshan and Shuksan Middle Schools since the building was damaged following a 2009 fire.

For-profit schools include Evergreen Team Concepts[35] and Lean Leadership Institute.


Bellingham has a non-partisan strong-mayor, weak-council form of government. The directly elected mayor serves a four-year term. Six of the seven city council members are elected by ward for staggered four-year terms. The seventh council member is elected at-large every two years.

A municipal court judge is also elected for four year terms.

The city maintains its own municipal police and fire department and operates countywide Medic One service through an agreement with Whatcom County.

Local culture


  • The Ski to Sea race[36] is a team relay race made up of seven legs: cross country skiing, downhill skiing (or snowboarding), running, road biking, canoeing (2 person), mountain biking, and kayaking. The racers begin at the Mount Baker Ski Area and make their way down to the finish line on Bellingham Bay. Organized by the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the event was first held in 1973 and traces it roots to the 1911 Mt. Baker Marathon.
  • The Bellingham Highland Games & Scottish Festival is held every year at Ferndale’s Hovander Park the first full weekend in June. The outdoor event celebrates Scottish culture and heritage, with two days of games, spectator sports, dancing, music and food.[37]
  • Whatcom Community College and Whatcom Human Rights Taskforce host the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference on MLK weekend every January. Event workshops, guest speakers, a silent auction and food address the general theme of Human Rights as expressed in the teachings of Dr. King. This event has been held since 1998.[38][39]
  • LinuxFest Northwest[40] is a free conference dedicated to discussion and development of the Linux operating system and other open-source and free-software projects. Held at Bellingham Technical College during the last weekend in April, it draws nearly a thousand computer professionals and enthusiasts from across the northwestern US and western Canada. Since the first conference in 2000 it has become one of the largest events of its kind.
  • The annual International Day of Peace is celebrated in Bellingham on September 21. The holiday was instituted by the United Nations as a 24-hour global cease-fire. The Bellingham-based Whatcom Peace & Justice Center publishes a calendar[41] of upcoming activist events with a theme of non-violence, community dissent, and worldwide Peace.
  • The Bellingham Festival of Music[42] is an annual celebration of orchestral and chamber concerts, held in July, hosting musicians from North American orchestral ensembles.
  • Bellingham Pride is a queer parade and festival held in July each year to celebrate LGBT people and their friends. The parade takes place on a midsummer weekend, passing through the downtown and ending in the public market area.[43]
  • The Bellingham Wig Out, held each year the Friday before Memorial Day, is a celebration of fun and irreverent welcoming Spring. Events include the Wig Walk, a promenade of Wig wearers through the downtown business district, a Wig Competition, complete with categories from Wee Wigster to the Best Handmade Wig, and a Wig Out Party held at various locations that evening. The Wig Out folks also participate the next day in the Ski to Sea Parade.[44]
  • The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Evergreen Empire is a drag queen charity organization that has been in Bellingham for more than 30 years. The group raises money for scholarships and other charitable organizations and holds their largest event, Coronation, the second Saturday of January each year. The Bellingham Gay Pageant is held the third Saturday of each September.[45]

Local attractions

Upper Falls in Whatcom Falls Park

Although Bellingham is smaller than neighboring metropolitan areas such as Seattle, Vancouver, or Victoria, the city and its surrounding region offer many attractions which are popular for both residents and visitors. The Whatcom Museum of History and Art[46] sponsors exhibits of painting, sculpture, local history, and is an active participant in the city's monthly Gallery Walks which are pedestrian tours of the historic buildings of the city, offering history and art lessons for local schools and adult groups, and historic cruises on Bellingham Bay. The Bellingham Railway Museum is where one may find educational displays explaining the history of railroading in Whatcom County, as well as model trains, and a freight-train simulator. The American Museum of Radio and Electricity[47] is a unique local establishment which features a collection of artifacts from 1580 into the 1950s, providing educational resources about the history of electronics and radio broadcasting. The AMRE also operates KMRE-LP 102.3 FM, a low-power FM radio station which broadcasts a number of old shows popular many decades ago, as well as programming of general interest to the local community. Mindport[48] is a privately funded arts and science museum, and is also occasionally involved in the Gallery Walks.

The Bellingham Farmers Market[49] is open on Saturdays from early April thru late December. Originally opened in 1993, the Farmers Market now features more than fifty vendors, music and community events. There is a tradition that "on opening day a cabbage is thrown by a city official to a long standing vendor." The association also operates a weekly Wednesday market in nearby Fairhaven.

The scenic splendour of Bellingham and Whatcom County is appreciated by residents and tourists. Whatcom Falls Park is a 241-acre (0.98 km2) large public park encompassing the Whatcom Creek gorge, running directly through the heart of the city. It has four sets of waterfalls and several miles of walking trails, and is a hub of outdoor activity connecting and defining several different neighborhoods of Bellingham. Popular activities during warmer weather include swimming, fishing, and strolling along the numerous walking trails.[50] About 50 km east of Bellingham the Mount Baker Ski Area is home to many of the world's first snowboarding champions, and it holds the world record for the greatest amount of snowfall in one season (winter 1998–1999). During most years the depth of accumulated snow exceeds 12 ft (3.7 m) and results in the closure of the ski area before the end of the winter months.

South of the city of Bellingham one may travel along Chuckanut Drive (Washington State Route 11), a route which offers cliffside views of the sea, the San Juan Islands, the hills and forests of the Chuckanut mountains, and several small picturesque bays along the edge of the Salish Sea. Several miles from Bellingham in the southern part of Whatcom County there are many places enjoyed by vacationers and enthusiasts of outdoor recreation, including: Larrabee State Park (popular for hiking), Lake Padden (popular for swimming, fishing and golfing), and Lake Samish. To the east of the city lies Lake Whatcom, a beautiful natural resource which provides the local public water supply and is the source of Whatcom Creek. Around Lake Whatcom and the region of Lake Padden there are several large foothills of the Cascades, including North Lookout Mountain, known locally as Galbraith Mountain.

In the waters of the Georgia Strait and Puget Sound it is possible to go whale watching. Several pods of orcas (killer whales) are known to travel from the open Pacific Ocean into the area, and families of these huge aquatic creatures can be seen swimming and hunting near the local bays and islands.


Whatcom Transit bus in the Fairhaven District.

The Bellingham International Airport offers regularly scheduled commuter flights to and from Seattle and Friday Harbor, Washington, and regularly scheduled jet service to Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, and Palm Springs, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Reno, Nevada, and Phoenix/Mesa, Arizona. In 2010 Alaska airlines began regularly scheduled direct flights to Hawaii. The airport is home of the first Air and Marine Operations Center,[51] to assist the US Department of Homeland Security with border surveillance.

Amtrak Cascades provides Bellingham with regularly scheduled passenger rail service to Seattle and to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Whatcom Transportation Authority offers regular scheduled bus service throughout the Bellingham area, including service to Mt. Vernon.

The Fairhaven section of the city is the southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway. The ferry service offers vehicle and passenger service north to Ketchikan, Alaska and points north including Juneau and Haines.

Music scene

Being located on a major highway, halfway between two major cities, Bellingham has traditionally had a natural advantage of drawing many diverse and highly acclaimed acts to perform at various venues. Also, the presence of a large university-age population has helped Bellingham in that it has been home to a number of regionally and nationally noted musical groups such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Posies, Crayon, Idiot Pilot, Mono Men, No-Fi Soul Rebellion, Sculptured, Federation X, The Trucks, Black Eyes and Neckties, The Whiskey Wailers, Black Breath and Shook Ones. Local independent record labels include Estrus Records and Clickpop Records. The town is also home to What's Up! Magazine – a publication devoted to the local music scene for over 10 years.[52]

Bellingham is also the home of an active classical music scene which includes the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, North Sound Youth Symphony, numerous community music groups and choirs, and the internationally recognized Bellingham Festival of Music.

Film scene

Bellingham also has a burgeoning independent film community, which is supported by the Whatcom Film Association, a local group of film appreciators with over 1500 members[53] and the Northwest film school ,[54] a hands-on filmmaking program. While not as large-scale or well-financed as some of Seattle's independent film efforts, Bellingham's annual NW Projections Film Festival has grown substantially in attendance since its creation in 1999.

Literary scene

Bellingham is also home to an active writers community, both at the local universities and independent of them. Western Washington University's English Department publishes the Bellingham Review [55]. This year the city hosted the first annual Chuckanut Writers Conference [56], run by Whatcom Community College and Village Books, a local bookstore. The city is home to a number of well known writers including Steve Martini and George Dyson.

Literary references

Robert James Waller’s best-selling novel The Bridges of Madison County began with the story of a National Geographic photographer from Bellingham, but Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation omitted this starting point.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Dillard wrote a historical fiction, The Living, set in the American Northwest in the late 19th century and focusing on the settlement at Whatcom on Bellingham Bay.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, in his 1969 collection "Earth House Hold," wrote of a summer spent at a fire lookout's cabin on Desolation Peak in the North Cascades during the '50s. In a passage dated June 28, 1953, Snyder detailed a trip to Gooseberry Point, stating "We went back by the same road, and by the outskirts of Bellingham Jack pointed out a ratty looking place called Coconut Grove where he said he had spent time drinking with a 'rough crowd.' They drank beer out of steins and called the place the Cat's Eye instead." Though some have postulated that the 'Jack' in this passage refers to Jack Kerouac, it does not. Kerouac spent a summer on Desolation Peak in the summer of 1957, four years after the passage related in Snyder's book.

In Footfall, a bestselling novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Bellingham was mostly destroyed after an alien invasion when Earth's defenders launched an Orion-type vehicle. Bellingham was chosen for this honor after Niven had a bad experience as guest of honor at a local science fiction convention.

Local theater

Bellingham is home to a rich theater culture which is further boosted by the performing arts department at Western Washington University. There are several notable theaters and productions in Bellingham:

  • Bellingham Theatre Guild – This non-profit community theater is nearly 80 years old. Hilary Swank performed here before moving to LA to pursue her career in acting.
  • Historic Mount Baker Theatre – This beautifully restored theater built in 1927 features a fine example of Moorish architecture and is the largest performing arts facility north of Seattle. The theater is listed on the register of National Historic Places.[57]
  • Upfront Theatre,[58] an improv comedy venue established by Bellingham resident Ryan Stiles of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame.
  • Northwest Ballet, a regional ballet company, performs classical ballets like The Firebird, Petrushka and Daphnis et Chloé, as well as annual productions of The Nutcracker. Northwest Ballet's regional ballet, Emerald Bay is set in Fairhaven in 1885 and features historical characters like Dirty Dan Harris, Goon Dip, and Mark Twain.
  • iDiOM Theater
  • Firehouse Performing Arts Center, a Fairhaven firehouse converted into a dance classroom and theatre, features audience seating descending from the ceiling in a counterweight system and a radiant-heated wood floor. Performances include theatre, music, and dance.
  • The high schools of Bellingham School District perform a combined musical production every several years.


Bellingham is home to the longest-running Peace vigil in the US. Started by Howard and Rosemary Harris more than 48 years ago, it has seen more than 4 generations. On the corner of Magnolia Street and Cornwall, in front of the Federal Building, every Friday starting at 4 pm and lasting until usually about 5 pm.[59][60]

International Day of Peace has been observed for the last six years by hundreds of participants. The event commemorates the United Nations' observance of September 21 as a day for international peace and cease-fire. Participants hold a rally at Maritime Heritage Park, and then marched to an event at First Congregational Church.[61][62]

The Whatcom Peace & Justice Center was founded in 2002 by local activists, and has been one of the most active such centers in the nation.[63][64]

Bellingham has a strong chapter of Code Pink,[65] Veterans for Peace,[66] and also a chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Chapter #32.[67]

Bellingham has two strong chapters of Food Not Bombs. The Sunday chapter has been serving for more than ten years. Food is served Sundays at 4:00pm at the intersection of Railroad and Holly. The Friday chapter serves during Bellingham's Peace Vigil on Cornwall and Magnolia, also at 4:00.

Bellingham has an active branch of the Trotskyist organization Socialist Alternative, the US section of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI).

City Councilman Terry Bornemann has been a staple of the local activist community, and sponsored the October 2006 Troops Home! resolution, making Bellingham the first city in the state of Washington to pass the resolution.[68]

In July 2008, the Bellingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging elected representatives and the federal government to avoid war with Iran, becoming the first city in the state to do so.[69]

Future development

In March 2005, Kiplinger's Personal Finance named Bellingham one of the top retirement cities in the nation.[70] Purchase price of homes has risen and rents have stably risen for the last decade.[citation needed] Many of the condominiums recently built as a result of the demand for affordable housing have subsequently become rental units.

Bellingham has seen a resurgence of real-estate development as house prices climb, caused in part by new residents moving in to the community. In order to accommodate this growth, new properties have sprung up all over the city, including the Downtown, Fairhaven, Happy Valley, Cordata, and Barkley neighborhoods. The city has reiterated their commitment to developing a wide range of housing options for all income categories, while retaining the integrity of existing communities. Annexation of surrounding farmland and county wilderness has been kept to a minimum due to public concern for environmental preservation, but several controversies have risen over the city's decisions to counteract the loss of land by allowing taller buildings in the city core, major new development on previously undeveloped land, and a lack of parks and open spaces in some of the more recently developed areas.[citation needed]

Waterfront redevelopment

The Bellingham waterfront has served as an industrial center for the past century, most notably the area encompassing the former Georgia-Pacific mill. G-P purchased the Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Company in 1963 and operated a pulp mill on the central downtown waterfront until 2001. In 1965, G-P built a Chlor-Alkali facility, which became a source of mercury contamination in the Whatcom Waterway and on the uplands of the site for decades. The documentary film, "Smells Like Money – The Story of Bellingham's Georgia Pacific Plant" tells the story of the site, which has since been purchased by the Port of Bellingham chiefly to create a marina in the 37-acre (150,000 m2) wastewater lagoon. The Port of Bellingham purchased the G-P site for $10 with the understanding they would assume liability for the contamination. The City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham entered into several interlocal agreements in which the City agreed to pay for all infrastructure costs, and the Port would create a marina, clean up the site, and retain all zoning.

The City and Port have entered into a partnership to redevelop the property, which has been unofficially renamed New Whatcom[71] after the township of which the area was originally a part. A general plan for the city's waterfront was developed by the Waterfront Futures Group,[72] and the new Waterfront Advisory Group[73] has been convening to develop a more detailed plan focused on this particular site. The draft plan includes "a new city neighborhood with homes, shops, offices and light industry, as well as parks and promenades, a healthy shoreline habitat along Bellingham Bay..."

Some citizen groups have opposed the Port's plan, most notably the Bellingham Bay Foundation (formed in 2005).[74] During the summer of 2006, the Bellingham Bay Foundation formed People for a Healthy Bay[75] over a concern that many of the areas slated for development contained high mercury levels (as high as 12,500ppm in the soil under the former Chlor-Alkali facility). People for a Healthy Bay launched an initiative that would have required the City of Bellingham to advocate for removal of mercury to the highest practical level. The City successfully sued to keep the initiative off the ballot.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is currently reviewing public comment for the Port's cleanup documents of the Whatcom Waterway.

Ecology will host a second public comment period for the Cleanup Action Plan, at which time the specifics of the cleanup will be discussed and decided. The City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham will develop a Master Plan and implement tax-increment financing for the City's portion of funding of infrastructure. Infrastructure alone is expected to cost roughly $200 million. Whatcom County has declined participation in the financing, citing unmet gaps in funding, a lack of benefit to the County, and the need for County taxes to go toward emergency, jail, and mental health services.


Club Sport League Stadium Logo
Bellingham Bells Baseball West Coast Collegiate Baseball League Joe Martin Field
Bellingham Slam Basketball International Basketball League, West Conference Whatcom Pavilion
Bellingham Roller Betties Roller derby WFTDA Bellingham Sportsplex
Bellingham Bulldogs[76] Football Evergreen Football League (EFL)[77][78] Civic Field
Chuckanut Bay Geoducks Rugby Union Pacific Northwest Rugby Football Union Bellingham Rugby & Polo Fields
Whatcom Warriors Youth Ice Hockey PCAHA & PNAHA Bellingham Sportsplex

The people of Bellingham pursue a diverse range of amateur sports, with skiing and snowboarding at the Mount Baker Ski Area popular in the winter and kayaking and cycling in the summer. Mt. Baker claims an unofficial world record for seasonal snowfall, with 1,140 inches (29,000 mm) recorded in the 1998–1999 season.[79]

Western Washington University, located in Bellingham, is home to NCAA Division II National Women's Rowing Champions. Although always nationally ranked, the Lady Vikings, in 2005, became Western's very first NCAA champion team and won again in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2011.

Western Washington University also operates a successful collegiate road cycling program that took top-5 positions nationwide at the 2006 nationals.[80]

Future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. began his professional career with the Bellingham Mariners. He played in the Northwest League on the team based in Bellingham.[81]



The Bellingham Herald is published daily in Bellingham. Other newspapers include The Cascadia Weekly,[82] The Western Front,[83] Whatcom Watch,[84] the AS Review,[85] and The Bellingham Business Journal.[86]


Bellingham and Whatcom County are part of the Seattle television market.

  • KVOS is a Me-TV television station licensed in Bellingham. The station broadcasts on channel 12. KVOS also enjoys significant viewership from neighboring Metro Vancouver and Victoria.
  • KBCB is a ShopNBC television station licensed in Bellingham. The station broadcasts on channel 24.
  • Bellingham TV Channel 10 (BTV10).[87][88]


  • Frequency The Snowboarder's Journal is an independent snowboarding magazine based in Bellingham, published quarterly.
  • What's Up! is a monthly music magazine focused on local music. It covers live shows, band bios and new artist releases.[89]
  • The Betty Pages is a monthly publication serving the GLBT and alternative lifestyle communities.[90]
  • Bible Study Magazine is a Christian magazine printed and distributed by Logos Bible Software.[91]

AM radio

Frequency (kHz) Call Sign kW (day) kW (night) Owner
790 KGMI 5 1 Saga Communications
930 KBAI 1 0.5 Saga Communications
1170 KPUG 10 5 Saga Communications

FM radio

Frequency (mHz) Call Sign kW Owner
89.3 KUGS 0.1 Western Washington University
91.7 KZAZ 0.12 Washington State University
92.9 KISM 50 Saga Communications
102.3 KMRE-LP 0.1 American Museum of Radio and Electricity
104.1 KAFE 60 Saga Communications
106.5 KWPZ  ? Crista Ministries

Notable people

Sister cities

Bellingham maintains sister city relationships with five Pacific Rim port cities and Vaasa, Finland.[92][93]

City State Country Year
Tateyama Flag of Chiba Prefecture.svg Chiba  Japan 1958
Port Stephens  New South Wales  Australia 1982
Nakhodka Flag of Primorsky Krai.svg Primorsky Krai  Russia 1989
Punta Arenas Flag of Magallanes, Chile.svg Magallanes and Antártica Chilena  Chile 1996
Cheongju Symbol of Chungbuk.svg Chungcheongbuk-do  South Korea 2008
Vaasa Pohjanmaan maakunnan vaakuna.svg Ostrobothnia  Finland 2009

Bellingham Sister Cities Association is very active in promoting Bellingham's sister city relationships and is very well supported by the community. The relationship with Tateyama, the oldest relationship (which celebrated its 50th year in 2008), is the most active and includes regular events such as an annual city hall staff exchange and community cultural visits. Tateyama frequently fields a team for the annual Ski to Sea race, or at minimum has representation in the Ski to Sea parade.

As of May 2011, the Bellingham Sister Cities Association is working on establishing a new sister city relationship with:


  1. ^ "Subcounty population estimates: Washington 2000–2006" (CSV). United States Census Bureau, Population Division. June 28, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ "American FactFinder 2". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 4, 2010. 
  6. ^ Hitchman, Robert (1985). Place Names of Washington. Washington State Historical Society. pp. 18. ISBN 0-917048-57-1. 
  7. ^ Southcott, Bonnie Hart (October 20, 2003). "Mines faced disasters, financial woes". The Bellingham Herald. Retrieved March 10, 2008 
  8. ^ Stark, John (March 2, 2008). "Beneath the city of Bellingham lie the memories of the mines" (– Scholar search). The Bellingham Herald. Retrieved March 10, 2008 [dead link][dead link]
  9. ^ Burkhart, Brendan (2003). "Postcards and Dead Fish: The Capitalism and the Construction of Place, Bellingham, Washington, 1918–1927". Occasional Papers (Center for Pacific Northwest Studies). Retrieved March 10, 2008 . The coal mines are described in 1 – "Introduction" and 5 – "Claiming the Nature of Place".
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Library Of Congress Engineering Record
  13. ^ Library Of Congress
  14. ^ "Bellingham, WA – May 2007 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates". U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  15. ^ Washington – May 2007 OES State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
  16. ^ "Chapter Seven – Economics" (PDF). Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan; January 2005. Planning Services Division, Whatcom County. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Chapter Three – Housing" (PDF). Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan; January 2005. Planning Services Division, Whatcom County. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Whatcom County Real Estate Research Report". Washington State University College of Business; Washington Center for Real Estate Research. 2007. Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  19. ^ "City of Bellingham 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report" (PDF). Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  20. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  21. ^ "Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress". 
  22. ^ Extensive historical weather data for Bellingham can be found at
  23. ^ See
  24. ^ See
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Average Weather for Bellingham, WA – Temperature and Precipitation". August 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  28. ^ Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, Washington
  29. ^ Bellingham Technical College
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies
  32. ^ Huxley College Home Page
  33. ^ Woodring College of Education
  34. ^
  35. ^ Evergreen Team Concepts
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ LinuxFest Northwest 2008
  41. ^ WJPC Calendar
  42. ^ Bellingham Festival of Music Homepage
  43. ^ Bellingham Pride MySpace profile
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ Whatcom Museum of History and Art
  47. ^ American Museum of Radio – Home
  48. ^ M I N D P O R T – A Hands-on museum of science and art in Bellingham Washington
  49. ^ Bellingham Farmers Market
  50. ^ Bellingham, WA: Whatcom Falls Park
  51. ^ ICE launches first northern border Air Marine Branch –
  52. ^ "What's Up Magazine". Retrieved January 15, 2009. 
  53. ^ Pickford Film Center
  54. ^ Welcome to the Northwest Film School
  55. ^ Bellingham Review
  56. ^ Chuckanut Writers Conference
  57. ^ Mount Baker Theater
  58. ^ The Up Front Theater
  59. ^
  60. ^ Friday Peace Demos (2007) – The NW Fellowship of Reconciliation Meet Up Group (Seattle, WA) –
  61. ^ United for Peace & Justice: Events
  62. ^ Bellingham, Whatcom County Local News | Bellingham Herald
  63. ^
  64. ^ Whatcom Peace & Justice Center | October 27
  65. ^ CodePINK Bellingham
  66. ^ Western Washington Veterans For Peace Chapter 92 – Greater Seattle Area
  67. ^ Bellingham WA | Chapter 32 | Iraq Veterans Against the War
  68. ^ Council Minutes for September 25, 2006 City of Bellingham, WA
  69. ^
  70. ^ Esswein, Pat Mertz; Franklin, Mary Beth; Rheault, Magali. "12 Great Places to Retire". Retrieved November 10, 2006. 
  71. ^ Home – New Whatcom Master Plan
  72. ^ Connecting Bellingham to the Bay: Welcome to Waterfront Futures
  73. ^
  74. ^ Bellingham Bay Foundation
  75. ^ Cleanup Comes First!
  76. ^ Bellingham Bulldogs (2008). "Bellingham Bulldogs Semi-Pro Football". Retrieved March 19, 2008 . Team's official website.
  77. ^ Bellingham Bulldogs (2008). "The EFL". Retrieved March 19, 2008 . League information on team's official website.
  78. ^ Evergreen Football League (2008). "Evergreen Football League, Real Men, Real Football". Retrieved March 19, 2008 . League's official website.
  79. ^ "Climate-Watch, May 1999". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved November 10, 2006. 
  80. ^ WWU Cycling Home
  81. ^
  82. ^ :: Cascadia Weekly:: Reporting from the heart of Cascadia::
  83. ^ The Western Front – Front Page
  84. ^ Whatcom Watch Online – Home Page
  85. ^ AS Review
  86. ^ The Bellingham Business Journal
  87. ^ Bellingham TV Channel 10 – City of Bellingham, WA
  88. ^ Error – LexisNexis Publisher
  89. ^ What's Up! Magazine – Bellingham, Washington's local music scene
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^ "Bellingham Sister Cities". Bellingham Sister Cities Association. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 
  93. ^ "Online Directory: Washington, USA". Sister Cities International. Retrieved June 22, 2008. 

Further reading


External links

Coordinates: 48°45′01″N 122°28′30″W / 48.750178°N 122.474975°W / 48.750178; -122.474975

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